The benefits of dating single dads

A few years ago, I went out a couple of times with a single dad whose daughter happens to be the same age as mine. We spent our first date talking about our kids and the challenges of parenting — and realizing we have a lot in common.

For example, we both feel perfectly satisfied having spent our upbringings  attending mediocre public schools, running around the neighborhood on weekends, and watching TV on school nights. Yet we stress about getting our kids into the right kindergarten and constantly schlep our unappreciative preschoolers to museums and They Might Be Giants concerts.

“What's up with that?” we both wondered aloud. I liked this guy. But when he started in on his daughter's former ballet career, I was a goner. “That class was the best hour of my entire week,” he said, glowing. “I could not get enough of these 3-year-old girls trying so hard to be little ballerinas. It was the cutest thing in the world.” Awkward silence. It was my turn to speak, but instead I was staring. I was staring not at his gym-toned shoulders or adorable, open smile. I was staring at him.

Most of the men I date are dads, and that is by design. Of course, it's practical to date other parents. Everyone's lifestyle is similar. Because moms and dads tend to be less cool than the general population, there are lower expectations to carry on a conversation about indy film, the hottest dumpling joint or world travel.

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But mostly I gravitate toward men who are fathers because of just that — they've gone through that colossal metamorphosis that only parenthood induces. There is a warmth and wholeness that men without children rarely possess.

Good news is that a lot of dads want to date single moms (if you're one of them, here is my advice to you)

Pros of dating single dads

There are no surprises dating single dads

Another perk: you know what you're getting. A man's parenting profile is about as transparent of a resume as you'll find. We can spend all day scrutinizing the way a guy dresses, how he orders his food or how long it takes him to text us after sleeping with us for the first time. But the best measure of his character, personality and partnership potential is who he is as a father.

I've met many men whose displays of parenting were aphrodisiacal. One single dad charmed me with tales of co-writing children's books with his tween daughter with whom he regularly makes sushi, while another — an artist who took me to his latest exhibit — proudly showed me spots on canvas where he'd invited his son to take liberty with the paint brush.

Single dads do amazing things for their kids — and that's hot

I went out a couple times with a guy struggling with his troubled teenage son who suddenly came to live with him full-time after a decade of being an out-of-state parent. He was reluctant to share details, but I was touched by the glimpse of a tenderhearted man doing his best in an impossible parenting conundrum — alone.

It's these mentions of parental self-doubt, or fighting with exes for shared custody, or pride in a kid's candid insights that showcase what kind of man a a guy is — and what it might like to be with him.

While out for dinner with one adoring father a few months back, I confessed that I am a wimp at bedtime, often caving to my kids' stalling antics.

“Not me,” he said. “I say good night, and that's it. I don't care how much they cry.” Impressed, I asked where that steel came from. “I don't give a FUCK,” he said. “That's my time, and they need to go to bed.” Again, I was speechless. I may have uncrossed, then recrossed my legs.

Cons of dating single dads

  • They have kids, so might not have as much time as you may desire
  • There may be drama with his ex
  • Kids are expensive — so he may not have a lot of extra money
  • He may want to take the relationship slow — not a bad thing!

Tips for dating a single dad

PSA: Dads are just like other dudes, except that they have kids that they actually know about!

A few general guidelines that may apply, though of course every dad is unique:

  • Be respectful of his time with his kids. He may be happy to hire a sitter to see you, or he may covet that time with his kids, and you have to work around it. Defer to him.
  • Be mindful that if he doesn't have his kids 50% of the time, that may not be his choice. Family courts aren't fair.
  • He's the parent — not you. If and when you were to blend families, then you can have discussions on parenting styles and compromises. Until then, he decides how the kids will be punished, etc.
  • That said, it is OK for you to respectfully express your feelings about how your time together is managed, and anything in the new family dynamic that bothers you. In other words: He doesn't get any more say in the relationship than you do just because he has kids.
  • Have fun!

Where to find single dads to date

Dating sites for single moms

Check out a dating app. This is the easiest, cheapest way to get your mojo back, and get a feel for what is happening out there. All you need to do is connect with one cute guy to get that spark going again.

Online dating is one of the best things in the world for single moms — time and money efficient, and you can even do a background check a guy before you go out with him!

Here is my list of the best dating sites and apps for single moms

EliteSingles is especially geared towards people who are educated professionals, looking for serious relationships.

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Video dating course — just for single moms

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Worried about flaunting your new mom bod on the market?

That is why I developed the bestselling video course, Get Back Into Dating AGAIN for Single Moms.

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Matchmaker sites for single parents

There is a reason matchmakers have been in use since the dawn of human sexuality — they work!

Matchmakers tend to be very expensive, with no guarantees. It's Just Lunch is different.

I did a lot of research on It's Just Lunch, and went through the onboarding process, which you can listen to in audio, and read the transcript. I am so impressed — if I weren't in a serious relationship, I'd 100% use this service.

Here is a deep review of It's Just Lunch, which is the largest matchmaking service in the world, and searches its network of literally millions of singles to find you quality dates. Here is what I like about it:

  • It's Just Lunch is 28 years old, reports 3 million first dates (!) and thousands of relationships and marriages
  • Guaranteed number of dates. They quote you a custom price that includes a fixed number of dates over a certain period of time (you can pause your engagement with penalty for any reason — including finding love 😍)
  • Each package 2 free one-on-one personal dating coaching sessions
  • Daters tend to be in their 40s and older, so lots of successful men who have kids and are open to moms with kids and successful careers
  • You are assigned a designated matchmaker who goes through rigorous training, and has years of experience — so their intuition is high!
  • Both parties pay and invest in the service — so everyone is equally invested in finding a quality relationship (and can afford the service)

In this post I lay out the pros and cons of matchmaking experiences, and you can hear for yourself as I go through what you can expect in your first experience with an It's Just Lunch dating specialist.

How to pick up cute single dads on the playground

Are you hanging out at the playground? Maybe the local pool, or on the sidelines of soccer practice and choir concerts? In other words – you’re spending time being a parent. And where there are parents, there are other parents. And where there are parents, there are single parents. And where there are single parents, there are single dads. And some of them are hot.

I’ve noticed a steep spike in the number of good-looking, interesting-seeming fathers without wedding rings at all of the above locations in my neighborhood and the soccer league my kids play in. Part of this scene is that the older kids get, the older marriage are. And statistically, that means more divorce.

Sad? Yes.

A delicious constant supply of fresh meat to your single-mom dating pool? You betcha!

As for me, not gonna lie: I’ve found myself flirting with dads from time to time. The next time you decide — in an effort to stay awake during your son’s flute recital — to peruse the auditorium and spot a cute dude, by himself, with a naked left-ring finger, here’s what to do:

1. Hang out nearby. I mean, don’t be weird. But find a reason to get up in that. Say, encourage your kid to ride the same merry-go-round, or belly up to the same doughnut-and-coffee table after the play. Remember: If you feel awkward as a single parent in a married-parent world, he does, too. You’re doing him a favor.

2. Be friendly. But normal. Don’t be aggressive – dudes hate that. Try smiling. Seriously, that is huge. Just smile at him.

3. Say something about the kids. After all, that is the only thing you definitely have in common at this point. It’s OK if it’s boring. Face it, most talk about kids is mind-numbing. Try: “Where’s your kid go to daycare?” or “Do you rent or own your flute?”

4. Let him know you’re single. After all, at this point you’re not 100% sure he is, too. The most natural way is to talk to your kids about daddy’s house. Kids with married parents don’t have a daddy’s house. “Daddy’s house” is golden code for: “I’m divorced, and I really, really, really hope you are, too.”

Try: “Nope, no ice cream. You’re going to eat dinner soon at daddy’s house,” or “When you’re at daddy’s house I am going to be spending long days in bed with — sorry, what was your name again? — right, with this nice man, Chad.”

5. Embrace the moment. Ok, you’ve established you’re both single parents. AWESOME! Seize on this moment. Within a single second you have confirmed you’re both members of the same secret club with its own language, horrors and, well, more horrors. It’s like you are instantaneous war buddies. Except better, because you didn’t kill anyone and it’s perfectly legal for you to have sex with each other during wartime.

6. Keep smiling.  So now you’re having a really fantastic conversation about retainer fees and visitation schedules that no one else by the swingset could possibly understand. That’s nice. But smiling means flirting. Do that.

7. Stop smiling. The part where he starts to tear up talking about how much he misses his kids? Act sad at those parts.

8. Time to go! You leave first. Old-fashioned, throw-back to The Rules of the 90s. Trust me on this one.

9. Be cool, but direct. “We should hang out sometime.” Smile. But not weird. Exchange phone numbers.

10. Collect your kids. Get out of there before they act like assholes and undo all your handiwork.

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About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

8 Comments

  1. Letitia on June 4, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Hey Emma, I appreciate another post from you. I especially appreciated the playground/activity pick-up tips, though the ‘daddy’s house’ reference would not work for someone like myself who is solo-parenting, where the father is not involved. This said, I’m sure there are other things I could say including ‘Are you a single parent?’ after some smile exchanges/ small talk.
    Speaking of dads, I had a guy tell me on a dating site recently that he had to ‘fight hard’ to get 50/50 custody of his 5-yo daughter. This man was still in the separation process. I know Emma that you recommend dating dads who are involved in their children’s lives and that if a man is Not involved/ doesn’t talk about his kids, that is a red flag. I agree with that. This said, the fact that this person is telling me that he ‘fought hard’, I must say, was a bit of a red flag in itself. In other words, if I ever got involved with him, and things didn’t work out, I can expect him to ‘fight hard’ with me too. Eek. I’m not even sure 50/50 custody is ideal for such a young child. Mind you, I’m not a psychologist. Lastly ladies, as you’ll discover on your own, there are quite a few separated men on dating sites, i.e. still officially married. A lot of them seem to think that’s Ok and I’ve had a few try to convince me that it’s Ok, that they’re over their ex, that the divorce is almost complete. I know dating coach Jaquie Sabourin does not recommend dating separated men, for various reasons which she mentions, and I tend to agree with her. I think I’ll check out this Elite Singles site. Maybe they filter for that. Thanks again Emma for another helpful and entertaining post :)

  2. SoonToBeEx on January 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

    So, I’m confused by your first paragraph. How about explaining why you were a “goner.”

    • AH on January 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      I think she’s saying she wanted to bone him then and there

    • Kashdoller on May 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Yeah I don’t get that either. Is it a turn on for you to be having a conversation with a man that you should be having with your single mom friends? I’m a full time single father who has his daughter enrolled in everything possible. But you’ll never catch me talking like that.

      • Fe on June 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

        Yea I’m not a mom, but that ballerina story… sounds like he was just wanted one thing and one thing only. I have a hard time believing any guy would talk like that without an underlying motive. That’s what guys would say to a woman to get into… you know.

        It’s funny too because that last paragraph about the man who had nerves of steel, even I have to admit that was hot. And at least he seems more honest than ballerina guy. lol.

        • M on July 26, 2018 at 8:05 pm

          You have a hard time believing it because you’re not a parent. Dads are suckers for their daughters. It’s real.

          • Ants on September 2, 2019 at 11:24 pm

            They are (I have 3 kids), but the line about the ballerina’s was manufactured and cheesy as hell. The guy would’ve been the absolute worst to start up a relationship with, thats pick-up artist level bad material – obviously had nothing meaningful to say

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